Polyculture is agriculture using multiple crops in the same space, in imitation of the diversity of natural ecosystems, and avoiding large stands of single crops, or monoculture. It includes multi-cropping, intercropping, companion planting, beneficial weeds, and alley cropping. It is the raising at the same time and place of more than one species of plant or animal. Polyculture is one of the principles of permaculture.
Polyculture, though it often requires more labor, has several advantages over monoculture:
- reduced susceptibility to disease. For example, a study in China showed that planting several varieties of rice in the same field increased yields by 89%, largely because of a dramatic (94%) decrease in the incidence of disease, which made pesticides redundant.
- local biodiversity increases. This is one example of reconciliation ecology, or accommodating biodiversity within human landscapes. This may also form part of a biological pest control program.
- Youyong Zhu et al. (2000). "Genetic Diversity and Disease Control in Rice". Nature (406): 718–722. doi:10.1038/35021046.
- Crop rotation and polyculture
- Polycultures in the Brazilian drylands
- Polyculture and disease prevention
- PolyCultures: Food Where We Live
- Integrated Polyculture Farming System